About Projects for Under-served Communities
Projects for Under-served Communities (PUC) is a unique service-learning collaboration between the International Office, the Cockrell School of Engineering and the School of Social Work that is helping prepare Longhorns to become global leaders. Through PUC, engineering and social work students team up to design and implement sustainable-development projects in communities across the globe.
Launched in 2010, PUC uses an innovative yearlong course sequence to hone students’ leadership skills and cultural competency—both vital when competing in an increasingly global job market—while providing much-needed services to communities in Peru, Ghana, and Costa Rica, among others.
“It is important for engineers to gain real-world experience in countries where they will be working for international companies,” says Janet Ellzey, Vice Provost for International Programs and a mechanical engineering professor at UT. “The students are committed to building relationships with communities who need their technical expertise. Working together, they will be able to create meaningful solutions that will provide relief to people who face serious challenges.”
In consultation with faculty and industry mentors, select groups of engineering and social work students spend two semesters brainstorming and designing projects for communities that need them most. If their ideas are approved by the Service Learning Advisory Board, the students then go abroad to implement the projects the following summer.
Each PUC team is responsible for all components of the project, from idea formation to budgeting, fundraising, and collaborating with partners in the local communities. Social work students play integral roles on each team, overseeing cultural awareness training and coordinating community engagement activities while abroad.
“PUC isn’t purely about constructing something—it’s broader than that,” says master’s of social work student Lindsay Morris, a member of the 2014 PUC Nicaragua team. “We want to leave the project not with the message of ‘We’ve done this for you,’ but instead with a message of solidarity and appreciation for what the community taught us and allowed us to learn from the experience.”
In its pilot year, PUC received the 2010 International Award for Innovative Practices in Higher Education from the University Design Consortium at Arizona State University. Recently, the program has received coverage on both the Longhorn Network and Good Day Austin.
Sawdust stoves in Ghana, stadium seating in Costa Rica, a water-distribution system in Peru—each year brings new possibilities to the Projects for Under-served Communities program. Take a look at what our 2014 teams accomplished this summer, and explore our past projects below.
Help our students continue to make these projects a reality by donating to PUC today! Monetary gifts are tax-deductible and go a long way toward covering project costs. Other ways to get involved include donating frequent flier miles and becoming a volunteer. Learn how you can contribute here.